Midnight Rider‘s first assistant director Hillary Schwartz, who was seeking to have the criminal trespass and manslaughter charges against her dismissed in the on-set death of Sarah Jones, will have to wait until a later date to find out if that will be possible; her pre-trial hearing on that motion was continued. However, her lawyer succeeded in having her case severed from that of her former colleagues who have also been charged, which means that she could be called as a witness in the trial that begins March 9th.
One result of the separation is that Schwartz will not go to trial with her other co-workers charged in the case: Midnight Rider director Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and executive producer/unit production manager Jay Sedrish.
Judge Anthony Harrison issued the ruling only on one portion of her motion. In trying to get the charges dismissed, her lawyers had earlier claimed prosecutorial misconduct, saying that she believed she had an agreement for immunity in exchange for her interview after the accident. The judge made no ruling on that motion and whether she will be tried on charges of criminal trespass and manslaughter will be decided at a later, undetermined date.
Schwartz was charged on September 10th of last year. The supervising crew members are facing criminal trespassing (a misdemeanor) which carries one-year sentence, and a manslaughter conviction that allows a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
In the state of Georgia, a person commits “involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony.” The supervising crew did not obtain a location permit to film on the train trestle, according to the prosecution’s filing and the federal investigation showed that the crew was ‘stealing a shot’ — hence, the charge of criminal trespassing against the four.
Jones was killed and eight others injured when the crew set up to shoot a scene on a train trestle without a permit and placed a metal bed on live tracks to film a dream sequence with star William Hurt. While filming, a train came barreling down the tracks, surprising the crew who had to run for their lives off the set or cling to the side of the bridge in an effort to survive. There was only enough room for the crew to run single file down the side plank of the bridge before the train struck the bed, sending shrapnel into crew members and killing Jones.